3 Directly-elected chairs |
17. Among the developments in select committee effectiveness
this Parliament, the most significant is the direct election of
almost all committee chairs by the whole House. The implementation
of the Wright Committee reforms, at the end of the 2005-10 Parliament,
provided a boost to select committees from the start of this Parliament.
18. The Procedure Committee has reviewed the process
of elections. The fact
that there were contests for 16 of the 24 available chairs is
a mark of the level of interest in these roles. The two by-elections
which have occurred in the last year have also stimulated much
19. A fair distribution of chairs across parties
is an essential element of our select committee system. Within
that, the election of chairs by the whole House gives those chosen
a greater degree of authority in their role in the House, their
relationship with ministers and their standing in the wider community.
20. We welcome the close co-ordination between three
committees on EU Justice and Home Affairs issues, which has assisted
the House. The fact the committees are chaired by directly-elected
chairs from the three different major parties has added to the
credibility of their joint recommendations.
21. The House should resist any
attempt by the front-benches to overturn the Wright reforms and
make the election of chairs less democratic and representative.
Such a retrograde step would harm the standing of select committees
in their role of holding to account the Government of the day.
A return to appointment of chairs behind closed doors or just
within parties would be unacceptable.
Support for chairs
22. Whether as a direct consequence of the ways in
which chairs are now elected, or as a sign of the growing significance
of select committees generally, the Liaison Committee is conscious
of the wider demands placed on chairs. In addition to chairing
the committee and guiding its inquiries, a chair is often expected
to attend and speak at events within the committee's subject area
and to meet numerous stakeholder organisations. This is an important
way of keeping in touch, but it does make demands on the chair's
time and resources. Some chairs are relying on their own constituency
staff to support them in carrying out these extra duties because
there has not been sufficient support available from committee
staff. We are therefore pleased that the House has agreed to the
Liaison Committee's modest request for an increase in scrutiny
resources to enable committee staff to provide additional support
for chairs in their wider role in the next Parliament.
7 House of Commons Reform Committee, First Report of
Session 2009-10, Rebuilding the House: Implementation,
HC 372 Back
Procedure Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2010-12, 2010 elections for positions in the House,
HC 1573 Back